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Getting Their Way: How kids try to manipulate their parents and what you can do about it
Have you ever noticed the things kids say to get their way? It’s as if they all have taken the same course on how to make their parents give in to their wishes. Below are seven statements I have heard kids make again and again in their seemingly relentless efforts to manipulate their parents. See if these sound familiar to you—then learn some of the best ways to respond to them.

This is a favourite of 2- and 3-year-olds. The next time your little one tells you he doesn’t want to, tell him, “I know you don’t want to, but you’re going to, anyway.”

For example: “I know you don’t want to take a bath, but you’re going to, anyway.”

When you respond this way, you’re acknowledging your child’s feelings but making it clear that you’re in charge and you know best.

Children may tell their parents they hate them when they are forbidden from doing what they want to do. A good way to respond to “I hate you” is to reframe what the child has said, eliminating the word “hate.”

For example: “I know you’re mad, but that’s the rule. You can’t ride your bike in the street.”

Children often use the “h” word when what they really mean is that they’re frustrated and mad. It’s understandable, of course, that new or inexperienced parents would be crushed when their child yells, “I hate you!” But try to remember that your child doesn’t really mean it. In a fit of anger, children don’t always find the “right” words to express their feelings.

Since parents feel it’s important to be fair to their children, this statement can really throw them off-balance. For their part, kids tend to say this when they’re trying to get their parents to change a “no” into a “yes.” By accusing parents of being unfair, kids try to make them feel guilty so they’ll back off a rule they have set.

So what’s your response?

How about this? “I don’t care if it’s not fair.”As a parent, you have to postpone worrying about what’s fair and remain focused on what needs to be addressed—your child’s misbehaviour, for example. If you want to, take up the issue of fairness with your child later.

This is yet another of those statements designed to prey on a parent’s guilt. Along with “That’s not fair,” “You love her more” is often effective in getting parents to launch into a drawn-out discussion with the child—and that only encourages the child to debate the parent’s authority. The next time your child accuses you of loving his sister or brother more, tell him, “You know that’s not true.”

For example: “You know that’s not true. Now, apologize to your sister or go to your room for a time-out.”

Again, you’re postponing the issue of favoritism to another time, if you choose to address it at all.

This one is a favourite accusation of teen-agers. They’ll use it to try to get their parents to relax an established limit.

How do you answer them? Try this: “I trust you, but I don’t trust today’s world.”

For example: “I trust you, but I don’t trust today’s world. That’s why I don’t think it’s safe for you to spend three hours wandering around a mall by yourself on a Friday night.”

Somehow, teenagers have the idea that their rooms are off-limits, and that any parent who enters is trespassing on sacred ground. Parents must buy into this idea because many feel like they have done something wrong when their teen confronts them.

Generally, I don’t have a problem with a teen’s desire for privacy. But when parents suspect he’s drinking, say, or taking drugs, they have every right to check things out.

If your teen accuses you of violating his rights, simply respond, “I will respect your privacy only when I’m confident you’re not doing something wrong.”

For example: “I will not respect your privacy if I think you’re taking drugs. Until I’m confident that you’re not, I will check your room from time to time.”

Stepchildren often throw this statement out in an attempt to get around the authority of the adult in charge. A good way for a stepparent to respond is to say, “This is our home, and I expect you to follow our rules when you’re here.\"

For example: “This is our home and I expect you to follow our rules. That means it’s time to turn off the television and go to bed.”

By stating your position in these terms, you sidestep an issue that’s irrelevant at the mument—that is, the fact that you’re not the biological parent. If you want to, you can address this topic at another time, when the situation is calmer and the child’s not trying to get her way.

At some point in your lives, your children will launch one or more of these statements your way. Like golden oldies, they may return to them again and again, hoping they’ll eventually wear you down and get their way. What I’d like to suggest is that you use this article as a cheat sheet of sorts, relying on the responses I have offered when your kids put you in a tough spot.

Of course, you should choose the language that makes you most comfortable. Just keep in mind that your child is saying what she’s saying to get her way. Stay focused on the problem at hand and remember that your authority is not a subject open for debate. That way, the right words are bound to come to you.

Kenneth N. Condrell Ph.D Child Psychologist